The Drudge Report’s iconic breaking news siren. This week, fans declared the site’s mobile app a complete failure.
The Drudge Report is one of the web’s most popular sites, and a key force in shaping the daily news cycle – a role it has occupied since it broke the Monica Lewinsky scandal in 1998. QuantCast ranks www.DrudgeReport.com at #158 for U.S. websites, while online analytics firm Alexa declares it to be the 100th most popular site in the country as measured by a combination of unique visitors and page views – just a few spots below the BBC but ahead of Major League Baseball and real estate listing giant Trulia. By all accounts, the enigmatic Matt Drudge is a smashing success.
So why is the Drudge Report app such an absolute failure, according to its own users?
“Everyone here loves Drudge, but until you can fix this app, Ill just be using it in Safari….”
5.0 is better but still bad
“These app developers should be fired… At this point I have to wonder who is actually approving these updates and how did they get this job….”
I’ve been a loyal Drudge reader for years. Indeed, as one of the “10% Addicts” who account for “70% of Visits” (according to QuantCast), I’ve scanned nearly every site headline, nearly every day, for much of my adult life. So while Drudge has his share of detractors for everything from his tabloid instincts to his right of center, libertarian leanings, I’ve got no beef with the man. While he’s not the only news source I go to, he is certainly one of my “go to” sources when I want to know what’s happening in the world on any given day.
The other day, while perusing the App Store on my iPhone 5s, I noticed that a few of my apps needed updating, including the Drudge Report. After I updated, I opened up the app, and…. was totally bummed. Something was not right, and I wondered if maybe my download had a glitch and I needed to restart the app, which I tried to no effect.
‘“Matt, you seriously need to boot these developers and keep giving your audience what you have for years – an easy to read glance at pertinent headlines. A .5 font size in three columns is going to lose you the audience you’ve worked so hard to gain.”
I really don’t understand…
“Now it’s all hopelessly tiny script you have to pinch to zoom in on. Seriously?!?”
Basically, everything is tiny. Like really, really tiny. So small you might as well be reading the lowest line in the eye chart machine that you think you can see but you’re really not sure about every other character (is that an E or a 3?). In fact, there’s no discernible difference between opening up the app to get the headlines and opening up the website itself in Safari on iPhone (which, in and of itself, does not seem to be mobile-optimized, which is another, completely baffling story to me).
I took a look at the ratings and reviews for the app in iTunes. Turns out everybody was scratching their heads just like I was, and sounding off with their feedback on the new version 5.0.1. With 567 ratings as of this writing, the app had only 1 star out of 5 – the worst possible rating for an app.
Thanks for Web Page in an App
“This app is now useless. It looks just like the web page, except the web version is better because you can at least share links and use the reader function….”
Return– still horrible
“I’ll be using my brewer instead I guess. I don’t understand how Matt Drudge can be letting this nonsense occur.”
Two constant themes ran through the criticism: that developers seemed to be responding in a petulant, childish manner to earlier criticisms of the most recent previous version (it had a few bells and whistles that didn’t quite work out that well for some users, and in the new version they have been stripped away to present a highly minimalist package for the app); and that the three-column website layout has not been adapted for the small screen, leaving the font so tiny as to be illegible. The only high rating I saw (other than one who gave five stars simply to stand out and to “give hope” to Matt, before trashing the actual app) was somebody reviewing the app as used on an iPad.
DrudgeReport.com as viewed on an iPhone 5s on October 14, 2014.
The app developer, Siren Tech, LLC has no other apps published in the iTunes store, and only one app (this one) in the Google play store, where every review since the new version was unveiled also earns the lowest possible rating of one star. Version 5.0.1 was released on October 9, only a week after Version 4.0 was launched. The latest iteration is touted as “The pure Drudge Report experience,” in reference to its streamlined approach that is light on features. Overall, the app earns three stars in the iTunes store, factoring in ratings for earlier versions.
Information about Siren Tech is hard to come by. The “developer website” link in iTunes takes you straight to the Drudge Report, and no home page comes up in a Google search. However, information about the company does appear on the Nevada Secretary of State‘s website, which records Siren Tech LLC as a domestic limited liability entity registered in that state as of May of 2011. Its registered agent is the Laughlin Associates out of Reno, a company that assists and represents business owners forming a business entity.
The Drudge Report, as viewed in the mobile app on an iPhone 5s, on October 14, 2014.
A managing member is also listed, however: Richard Moon of Valencia, California. His address listed with the Secretary of State’s office is also the address of a California firm, TC Financial, which provides services ranging from investment planning, tax preparation and estate conversion. Nothing on app development, per se.
If you’re a regular to Drudge, you recognize the siren atop the page that signals a major, breaking news story. That, and the fact that there is no other trace of Siren Tech LLC doing any other development work, leads me to wonder if Matt Drudge built his own app, or at a minimum, if a non-professional developer (i.e. a friend, etc) built the app for him.
Mobile app users account for a small but portion of Drudge Report traffic according to the folks at Alexa (about 5% in a recent week, for example), but most likely represent a base of “power users” for the site, and in theory should be on the rise as apps continue to become more prevalent generally. However, the recent rollout of this app and the utter fiasco that it has become makes one thing clear: Matt Drudge needs a new app, and a new developer, before this mobile mishap causes too many readers to turn the page on a site that helped usher in the new media age as we know it.